Alicante History

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Alicante History
Prehistoric Alicante

Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years with the first tribes travelling from central Europe around 5000 to 3000 B.C. Some of these tribes in Alicante once settled around the slopes of Mount Benacantil, on which the castle of Santa Barbara stands today. The mountains best asset is its location close to the sea but also due to its height it offered security from invaders. According to some historians the native Spanish (The Iberians) secured the hilltop by fortifying it. A group of people settled in the Benalua area. Later on the Roman city of Lucentum was built which is the predecessor of the city of Alicante. Some settlements were also found in the Serra Grossa and in Albufereta.

Greeks and Phoenicians had started visiting the eastern coast of Spain by around 1000 BC for the purpose of trade. This played a major part in the introduction of the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel.

The armies of Carthage and Rome began penetrating the peninsula and fighting for dominance by around 600 BC. Father of the legendary Hannibal, The Carthaginian General Hamilcar founded the fortified settlement of Akra Leuke, on the site of the modern city of Alicante. Much of the land around Alicante was conquered by the Carthaginians, however in the end they were no match for the Romans. They ruled here and proved to be the primary force for over 700 years. By 500 AD Rome was in decline and Alicante was mainly under the control of the Goths.

The Moors (Arabs) who ruled southern Spain until 1100 AD built the present city under the protection of the castle.

Alfonso the 10th captured the city for the Castilian crown in 1246. Jaime II incorporated Alicante in the kingdom of Valencia later in 1308.

In 1490 under the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic, Alicante was granted its own city charter. 100 years later it became a natural port of Castile, which initiated the developments of its sea trade.

Alicante flourished and attained the rank of Spain’s third largest trading ports due to peace and prosperity, exporting oranges, olive oil and wine. Like other ports and cities, invaders have also attacked Alicante and all these invasions have been made through sea.

For seven consecutive days, during the reign of Charles II in 1691, The French Armada attacked Alicante. The war came to be known as the War of Spanish Succession (1701-14). During this war having sided with the Bourbons Alicante suffered an attack from the English Troops, resulting in the destruction of Santa Barbara castle. It became the provisional capital of the Kingdom of Valencia during the War of Independence (1804-14) This also was known as the Peninsular War. Major General Suchet occupied Valencia at this time.

Alicante only started to really prosper and expand during the 19th century. In 1858 the arrival of railway helped link Alicante to the centre of the peninsula. Due to this, the city had a cosmopolitan make over and became one of Valencia’s major ports welcoming maritime traffic.

Modern History

The Spanish Revolution began around the first quarter of the 20th century. Due to failed military dictatorship and civil unrest, King Alfonso XIII had to give up the throne. Spanish Republic was declared in 1931. Subsequent elections were won by a narrow margin by a left wing coalition of communists and socialists, however they lost the next one in 1933 to the conservatives and liberals. The defeat wasn’t accepted well and this lead to a revolution led by the Republican Army. Communism in Spain came in existence due to an uprising by General Sanjurjo and General Mola in 1936. They were supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany after 3 years of war and the accidental death of both Sanjuro and Mola, Franco’s armies werte victorious. Alicante was one of the last cities loyal to the legitimate government.

Under Franco’s police state the next 20 years proved to be unpleasant for Alicante. Severe frosts in 1941 and 1946 caused local orange farmers to suffer huge losses. When Franco died in 1975. King Juan Carlos I succeeded him leading Spain to democracy. After a gap of four centuries, Valencia at last was permitted autonomy.
Today the province of Alicante is the second largest region in the Valencian Autonomous Community. The port was re-established since the industrial decline in the 1980’s and the city’s airport located at El Altet, is one of the most active airports in Spain.

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